Tag Archives: Simon and Garfunkel

Monterey Pop – “The greatest pre-Woodstock rock music festival”

Jimi Hendrix sets fire to his guitar, The Who leaves no equipment undestroyed – Yeah man! Those were the days.

Think about history’s first legendary rock festival and you’ll probably see a picture of Woodstock 1969 in front of your mind’s eye. But, there’s a precursor. While it was similar in its outlandish atmosphere, it’s not the least bit as well-known as Woodstock.

Monterey International Pop Festival took place in 1967 and it’s an archetype of music festivals. To compare: the first festivals in Europe, like Pinkpop (Netherlands) or Ruisrock (Finland), popped up in 1970. The Danish Roskilde followed just one year later.

Monterey International Pop Festival was a stepping stone for Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and many others who we now consider legends. It’s about time we take a look at one of the apogees of the summer of love.  

The art of rock ‘n’ roll

It all started with an idea of John Phillips, singer with the Mamas & the Papas, and his record label executive Lou Adler. They figured that rock ‘n’ roll should be given the status of art –  just like jazz. They also thought rock ‘n’ roll deserved a bigger stage. Together with a board of recommendation – that seated the all-star cast of Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson and Paul Simon – they worked out a lineup within a few weeks.

Simon & Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, The Steve Miller Band, The Byrds, Otis Redding, The Who, Scott McKenzie, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, and so many more artists, agreed to play for nothing. Lou Adler says: “ We were just there at the right time.”

The Who and Jimi Hendrix

The story goes that Jimi Hendrix and The Who decided who would play first with a coin toss. Jimi lost and The Who stole the show by completely wrecking their instruments on stage. This instigated Jimi’s competitive side and he wanted to blow the crowd’s mind even more. People say he’d set fire to his guitar once before in London, but at Monterey International Pop Festival it was recorded on film for the first time.

 

Monterey vs. Woodstock

Jefferson Airplane’s front woman, Grace Slick, knew the location for Monterey International Pop Festival from the jazz festivals that were held there. She looks back with a free spirit’s nostalgia: “The entire area in back of the stage was people wandering around. There were drinks and marijuana and blow and whatever else everyone was interested in. Everything worked.”

Monterey proved to be a totally different experience than Woodstock, two years later. Jefferson Airplane were scheduled to play at nine o’clock in the evening, but due to programming delays they ended up playing at seven in the morning.

International breakthrough

Acts known in the vicinity of San Francisco, like Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Grateful Dead now amassed fame from an even larger audience. The Beach Boys couldn’t make it, which meant Otis Redding joined the ranks at prime time Saturday evening, which afforded him a whole new fan base.

Monterey forbidden

A second edition of the Monterey International Pop Festival, planned for 1968, was forestalled by authorities and local residents. They weren’t waiting for a bunch of hippies to spread a message of hedonism, free love, mood stimulators, and rock ‘n’ roll in their backyard. So, as it goes, they forbid it. Fifty years later, in June 2017, there was a follow up to the first edition.

Monterey Pop the movie    

Director D.A. Pennebaker – also known for “Dont Look Back,” a documentary about Bob Dylan and the live recording “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” – eternalized the legendary performances of the festival in his 1968 film “Monterey Pop.” Thanks to these images we can catch a glimpse of how fetterless the festival business once started.

“Monterey Pop” is one of the nostalgic windows on ‘60s and ‘70s counterculture. As time goes by the photogenic celluloid images of this prototypical music festival seem to become ever more special.

If you live in the Netherlands you can see the concert film at the open air film festival Zienemaan & Sterren: September 8, 2018.

Historic Live Albums – The Concert in Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel

Some concerts turn out to be different than you had expected. The show by folk duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in New York for example. The charity concert for the renovation of Central Park is listed in the history books as one of the best live performances of the two musicians.

In February 1982 the first live album of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel was released: The Concert in Central Park. With classics such as Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer and The Sound of Silence you can’t erase this folk duo from the history of popular music. The record is also a vain attempt to bring the two musicians together, who haven’t played together for years due to quarrels.

The Concert in Central Park

The occasion for the concert is Central Park. The park has fallen into decline as a result of many budget cuts in the 1960s and 1970s. The green heart of New York – meant to offer the inhabitants a place where they can come to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet in ‘the city that never sleeps’ – is in need of renovation.

The city is still struggling with financial problems at the beginning of the 1980s and doesn’t have the three million dollars needed to restore the park. Mayor Ed Koch calls upon the Central Park Conservancy to come up with a solution at the beginning of 1980.

One of the initiatives of this foundation is to organize charity concerts in the park. The proceeds of the merchandise, television and video rights go to Central Park. The folk duo, which has its roots in New York and often refers to the city in its songs, is a perfect choice. Even though Simon and Garfunkel have their doubts about the project.

Simon & Garfunkel

You know what they say: “quit while your ahead.” Most artists never do, but there is always an exception to the rule. Simon and Garfunkel reach their peak after five studio albums at the end of the sixties.

Around that time, the two New Yorkers grew apart both as friends and musically. They decide to stop. Their last album Bridge over Troubled Water dominates the top of the Billboard rankings for ten weeks.

When Paul Simon is approached for the benefit concert about ten years after the act collapsed, he reacts enthusiastically. However, he has doubts about a possible collaboration with his old friend Art Garfunkel and is not entirely convinced of the commercial success of the project. Simon struggles with depression and wants to avoid setbacks. After some insistence by the promotor he contacts his buddy.

Preparations

Art Garfunkel lives in Switzerland when he receives the phone call from his old partner in folky crime. His enthusiasm is so great, that he immediately flies back to New York. There the preparations begin for what would later become one of the duo’s most successful live albums.

The rehearsals are not without struggles and fights. Old wounds open up again and the two have a lot of quarrels. In an interview Paul Simon says: “The rehearsals were terrible. Artie and I were arguing all the time.”

At first Simon wants to open the show with his solo act and then continue the performance together with Garfunkel. After some discussion, both artists agree that this concert should be carried by both of them. Although the announcement posters contain the separate names of the musicians, the artists announce a week before the show that they will perform as Simon and Garfunkel.

Commercial success

With half a million visitors, the folk duo concert in Central Park is America’s seventh largest show. It raised some 51,000 dollars for the renovation of the park. In addition, the album itself and the live recordings become great commercial successes. It almost seems like the two stars could reunite again.

After a much-praised performance, Simon and Garfunkel try to renew their career as a team and follow up with a world tour. This turns out well, but the attempts to record a new record end in disaster. Art Garfunkel leaves the studio and Paul Simon takes advantage of the situation to record and release his solo album Hearts and Bones.

The Concert in Central Park was not the last time the two claim the stage as a duo. Over the years they play at each other’s solo performances. In 2004 they even perform together under the name Simon and Garfunkel on the live album Old Friends: Live on Stage.

Set list

During the concert in Central Park, all classics are covered alternated by the artists’ own work. Of the 21 tracks played, only 19 made the record. The fans who want to hear the whole concert must check out the video recordings.

Curious about our historical record of February? Check it below.